Co-opted and Placated

Saturday, March 20, 2010
Dennis Kucinich is very good at being Dennis Kucinich. An acquired taste, Dennis never pretends to be anyone but Dennis. I’m not a big fan and I seldom agree with him, but I respect his unrelenting desire to fight windmills. The Cleveland Plain Dealer carried an op-ed piece written by Congressman Kucinich on March 14, 2010 that was vintage Dennis.

Congressman Kucinich is a strong advocate of a single payer health care system. He is not bashful about this. His distrust of insurance companies in 2010 rivals his love affair with the banks and CEI in the late 70’s. He is nothing if not consistent. As a leading member of the Progressive Caucus of the Democratic Party, he added numerous amendments to the House’s health care bill that would have pushed our country in a direction most of us would want to avoid. As his extreme measures were stripped from the bill, he and his fellow Progressives swore that they would not vote for any bill that failed to include a strong public option.

We’ve discussed the public option several times over the last year. There is little need to revisit the weakness of this concept again in this post. What is relevant today is Congressman Kucinich’s adamant opposition to the poorly written bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and the unrestrained vitriol he unleashed on the hodgepodge that emerged from the Senate.

As President Obama and Speaker Pelosi rushed to find 216 votes to pass the Senate bill in the House, Congressman Kucinich suddenly became relevant. The Today Show and other morning broadcasts, the Sunday new shows, and the weekday opinion programs all discovered Dennis. Congressman Kucinich was going to vote NO, even if he was the deciding vote. Fox News and Michael Moore (!) applauded his gumption, though for entirely different reasons. Democratic Party leaders rushed to Countdown with Keith Olbermann and the Rachel Maddow Show to declare that Dennis Kucinich led a group of one. They sneered at his presidential runs and other solitary crusades.

What a difference a plane ride makes. President Obama visited Strongsville this week. Several local members of Congress got a ride from Washington aboard Air Force One. Air Force One, the magic plane. Do you remember the Newt Gingrich melt down after Bill Clinton gave him a ride on AFO? Dennis didn’t have a chance. By the time the plane landed, Congressman Kucinich was UNDECIDED. His move to YES was a forgone conclusion. Now cited for his leadership just a week after he was dismissed by the party’s chiefs, Dennis Kucinich was co-opted. It turns out that some strongly held positions are no match for a really cool plane ride.

My representative in Congress is Marcia Fudge. Many of my fellow insurance agents have contacted their Congressman. Most of my clients are small business owners and some of them have tried to talk to their representative. I know that other chamber of commerce presidents have called Congress. Not me. I resisted calling Congresswoman Fudge as a constituent, agent, business owner, or even as President of the Beachwood Chamber of Commerce. Why? There didn’t seem to be any reason to waste the time. Marcia Fudge’s vote was never a doubt. I couldn’t see any value in the exercise and I didn’t want to get aggravated.

I can’t explain why, but I changed my mind on Monday. Maybe it was Dennis’s conversion. Perhaps it was the mindless attacks on my industry or my disdain of smoke and mirrors. Whatever the reason, I finally contacted Congresswoman Fudge’s office on Tuesday. I spoke with legislative aide Beverly Charles.

I started our conversation by establishing my Democratic Party bona fides. Regular readers of this blog know that they are extensive.

I asked Ms. Charles a very simple question. “What is Congresswoman Fudge’s position on the health care legislation?” I was told that she was UNDECIDED. I was surprised. I talked with Ms. Charles for about thirty minutes. She was fully versed in the Speaker’s talking points. Her knowledge on the subject appeared to be a mile wide and an inch deep. She emailed her thanks the next day. I offered this blog and the opportunity to meet in person to provide more useful info.

Was Congresswoman Fudge really UNDECIDED? Absolutely not. According to the New York Times and Doctors for Health Care Solutions, she had already made her decision. DOHCS had been asked to have 75 members, all wearing white lab coats, to appear on short notice to serve as stage props when Marcia holds her press conference. This assumes that she gets a press conference. Since she was always counted as a YES, her announcement is hardly news. But my question is does Ms Charles know as much about her boss’s position on the issue as she does about this legislation, or was I simply being placated? I think we know the answer.

President Obama asked Congress for Courage at this week’s pep rally in Strongsville. There has been very little courage exhibited by this Congress.

No Short Cuts

Wednesday, March 10, 2010
In “Dreams From My Father”, future president Barack Obama introduces his readers to his entire family. We meet both of his grandfathers, Stanley Dunham of Hawaii by way of Kansas and Hussein Onyango Obama of Kenya. We learn how these two men influenced both him and his father. The central theme of the book was about making your own way in the world, a task made more possible with hard work and clear thinking. Every corner cut resulted in failure. Every job done well led to greater success. I just finished the book while on vacation. It was terrific.

In fact, the book should be read by lots of people. I’m going to give my copy to my girlfriend’s son, Alec. Someone else who should read the book, someone else who might benefit from the lesson on “Dreams From My Father” would be the guy who wrote it, Barack Obama.

President Obama was on TV again this morning. The news was showing a clip from yesterday’s pep rally. Can’t tell you where this one was. They all look alike. The president rails against the evil insurance companies. The President complains about insurance company rate increases. Someone is brought up to cry about losing his/her insurance after getting sick and getting dropped for not paying the premium. The solution to all of our problems is to pass the BILL. Crowd cheers. Cut to commercial.

Will someone please call Barack Obama? We need the young, brilliant, hard worker to push aside our current president. We need real leadership, not just on this issue, health care, but on jobs, finance reform, national security, and all of the other major issues of our time. Right now we have slogans and scapegoats. We are cutting corners and racing towards disaster.

I’ve been busy this week and have only seen bits and pieces of Countdown with Keith Olbermann and the Rachel Maddow Show. Both had guest hosts. Here is what I saw and what you may have missed:
1. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) said “The insurance companies are the problem”.
2. Dr. Howard Dean said “The insurance companies are the problem”.
3. Bart Stupak (D-Mi) is leading a group of 12 anti-abortion fanatics.
4. Diana Degette (D-Co) leads the Pro-Choice Caucus, 190 strong, who won’t give up any more ground.
5. If the BILL doesn’t pass, it will be all (fill in the blank)’s fault.
6. Liz Cheney is so much like her father, even Kenneth Starr is repulsed. (Nothing to do with health care, but truly weird and interesting.)

We are contemplating the overhaul of nearly 20% of our economy and the participants are locked in their little battles, digging in their heels, and shouting out their slogans. No matter how many of these shows you watch, you will never learn how we are going to provide health care for 300+ million Americans and, more importantly, how we are going to pay for it. Really. Taxes that kick in eight years from now aren’t real. Creating massive changes and hoping that the good stuff, the parts you like, aren’t impacted is simply childish.

WWOD? What would Obama do? Maybe the real question is what would the real Obama do? The guy from the book might have, like his father before him, first tried to just bluff his way through the battle. But once he encountered a set-back or two, the book’s Barack Obama would have realized that he needed to fully apply himself to the task. He would have succeeded by out-thinking and out-working his opponents. He would have built a consensus and found a feasible solution to our health care morass. Not a plan that merely sounded good, but one that actually could succeed.

We’ve seen the bluffs, the set-backs, and the short cuts. The guy demonizing the insurance companies isn’t going to get the job done. Now is the time for the other Obama to emerge. The one we elected. The one we, as a country, need.